Fostering Innovation through
Intercultural Creativity

Ecological, economic, political, hygienic, and meteorological developments do not stop at national or regional borders. Coping with these threats demands new forms of cooperation on a global scale. The Impact Week – a network of innovation experts – uses design thinking to foster user-led innovation and a sustainable knowledge transfer in low-income economies to tackle the most urging global problems. Our Innovation Strategist, Stina, is part of this pioneering innovation and going to share her insights.

In 2015, a small group of entrepreneurs and design thinking experts started an experiment. They had asked themselves: “What if we develop a program that enables young people around the world to tackle the most complex challenges in their community with a new approach to innovation and entrepreneurship?” The Impact Week was born. The first group travelled to Kenya, equipped with their innovation expertise and motivation to create a real impact.

Basically, the network unites people from various countries around the world to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in low-income countries and economies as the basis for sustainable growth. With the help of the creative design thinking method, local students are empowered to develop their own business ideas and solutions for the problems of their local community. In a one-week workshop they are guided by local mentors who are themselves trained as coaches in an upstream train-the-trainer workshop using the design thinking process.

All events are organized by a network of volunteers, mostly working in the field of innovation. Anyone who wants to contribute to the multicultural, interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge – from employees of multinationals to NGO employees, to university teachers – can participate.

An example of an idea developed during the first Impact Week in Kenya is Taka Smart, a social enterprise that aims to address the prevalent crisis of improper waste management in the country. They provide an ecosystem for offering redeemable points in exchange for recyclable waste in an effort to improve living standards and foster an eco-friendly lifestyle for a greener and healthier environment.

Let’s have a closer look on how an actual
Impact Week program is like!

Each Impact Weeks on site is structured into two sessions. The first part is a train-the-trainer workshop to teach local teachers, NGO employees as well as employees of the sponsors, how to apply design thinking and be a facilitator. By training these multipliers, we aim to ensure a long-term effect without creating any dependence. The second phase is the so-called Impact Week. During this session, the trained „junior coaches“ apply their newly acquired skills – backed up by their „senior coaches“ – by coaching the participants through the design thinking process. Each junior coach oversees a team – consisting of students and young entrepreneurs – aiming to develop promising business models to tackle local challenges.

Ever since the Impact Week team started the project in 2015, 13 official Impact Weeks took place: two in Kenya, two in Nigeria, two in Rwanda, three in India, as well as three in Colombia and one in Jordan. Manifesting the programs sustainable impact, our Kenyan and Rwandan colleagues not only managed to establish and maintain a growing network of Central African coaches but to kick off their own Impact Weeks several times and even forwarded the approach to Uganda Colleagues.

The Impact Week Kibera was the second independently organised Impact Week conducted by the Impact Week Alumni’s of Africa Nazarene University. Kibera is Africa’s second largest urban slum located in Nairobi County and close to Nairobi City, Kenya’s capital. Different sources estimate the slum’s population to be over one million. Most residents within the slum live significantly below the poverty margin and a large percentage of them are unemployed. There are extreme cases of poor drainage due to poor waste disposal and lack of space. This leads to diseases as a result of unhygienic conditions. Therefore, we are extremely proud of our Kenyan colleagues for their selfless commitment to forwarding the spirit and approach.

Follow us - and stay tuned!

In the following two articles I will take you with me on my journey with the Impact Week and give you some insights to this year’s project – currently we are getting prepared to kick off the field in Ghana. So, stay tuned! Further, we will critically examine the method-fit of design thinking in the context of economic / development cooperation and possibly conflicting values. In this context, we also take a look at the innovation power of niche and low-income markets, and how these often bear important impulses for established markets or brands.

By the way... In June 2018, Impact Week was honored to win the title “Excellent Place” in the “Germany, Land of Ideas” competition organized by the German Federal Government, the Federation of German Industries and Deutsche Bank. The project “workshop for ideas in developing countries” of the Impact Week was one of the 100 innovative winners of the competition. Following the annual motto „Connecting Worlds – Strengthening Cohesion“ our project demonstrates how experimentation, curiosity and courage to rethink developing aid can foster pioneering innovations in developing and emerging countries.

Follow Impact Week on social media to receive live updates from the Impact Weeks of 2019, and keep an eye out on our Medium page for more information coming soon! Get in touch, if you are curious to learn more.

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Autorin: Stina Kozok

Innovations- und Markenstrategin, trägt als aktives Mitglied der Impact Week – einem Sozialen Netzwerk von Innovationsexperten – zu der Mission bei Innovation und Entrepreneurship in Randmärkten zu fördern und einen nachhaltigen Wissenstransfer sicherzustellen. In diesem Rahmen untersuchte sie die wertebedingten Erfolgsfaktoren von Design Thinking im Kontext von Entwicklungszusammenarbeit für eine möglichst langfristige Befähigung der Teilnehmer.